Treasures in Heaven

Treasures in Heaven

March 10th, 2009

 

It is just past midnight, early Tuesday morning, March 10. Jill and I are with our son, John, and his wife, Pam, in York, PA hospital. She’s going through labor. John called me earlier in the day from San Francisco, I thought to tell me of his business trip, but he’d just heard from Pam that their baby had died. She had a sudden onset of preaclamsia (sp?). So we are with them now.

What are we thinking of?

The resurrection.

What it will be like to hold a baby, perfect except no physical life?

How precious life is. All of life is a gift.

The Psalms.

Kim at Work in Winter

Kim at Work in Winter

February 23rd, 2009

 

Kim is all bundled up for her job walking dogs. She and I are waiting in the car outside my office in Telford for her aide to pick her up. This was a couple of weeks ago on a really bitter day when the temperature was hovering around zero. She has double gloves on with handwarmers inbetween the gloves. A double hat with neck scarf, underarmour plus two slacks on and a couple of sweaters underneath her down jacket. She could hardly move!

 

Kim Reflecting On Heaven

Kim Reflecting On Heaven

February 4th, 2009

 

Kim wrote this letter this week to a mom in Jill’s school whose son had just died of Muscular Dystrophy. It is the most coherent letter Kim has ever written, and it is the most faith filled. I wish I had a sample of Kim’s writing from ten years ago to show you. There are so many interwoven answers to prayer in this little letter.

Dear Jeannine,

I am so sorry about your brother in wheelchair.

I AM SO sad about my pop pop in the heaven too!

YOU WILL SEE YOUR BROTHER AGAIN in heaven

and I am going to see pop pop in heaven!

I will have a beatiful voice. Your brother will walk in

heaven.  I will dance with him in heaven.

Don’t be sad about your brother because God

will help you and remember he is dance with God.

Love

kim

The 4th Century In Reverse

The 4th Century In Reverse

January 18th, 2009

 

I am home today with back pain from a fall at work on Thursday. I was carring a box of paper for recycling down the steps and slipped hitting my back pretty hard. I think I cracked some ribs. My almost immediate thought was, “I don’t want to give my life for recycling!”

I love to ponder the grand sweep of history. Bear with me on this extended reflection on the 4th century AD. It is an ideal window through which to view our present situation in America. The 4th century must have been an exhilarating time for the church. It began with a sharp persecution from Domitian and ended, unbelievably with the Roman goddess of Victory (Nike!) being taken down from the Roman Senate. Bishop Ambrose who was influential in Augustine’s conversion led the fight to have the goddess removed.

The turning point was Constantine’s vision and subsequent victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. In response to the vision of a cross in the sky (there are several versions of the vision) Constantine had his soldiers paint over the image of the sun god on their shields the Chi-Rho of (X and R are the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek) Christianity. Then for the rest of the century, edict by edict Christianity became first accepted, then dominate, and finally the only game in town.

The century ebbed and flowed as one would expect. There were brief reversals such as when Justinian the Apostate tried to restore the pagan gods and put Christianity in its place. It didn’t work—you can tell how effective he was by the name given him by the winners! Christianity had become too powerful. Legend has it that his dying words in battle were, “You have conquered Galilean.”

It is popular to decry “Constantinianism” and its corrosive effects on the human soul that come from the merging of your own culture with Christianity. You can’t tell who the real Christians are any more. Phariseeism comes into the church in spades. You also get blamed for every misstep that the culture does (crusades, witch burning, Inquisition).

I heartily agree with many critiques of Constantinianism, but without Constantine and the 4th century dominance by Christianity there would have been no Western civilization, no world-wide church, no democracy, no science, no sports, no women’s liberation, no diplomatic corp and yes no post office. You just can’t separate the two.

An excellent argument for this is Bernard Lewis’ best selling, “What Went Wrong?” Lewis teaches at Princeton and is considered America’s leading Muslim scholar. The title of the book is the question Muslims have been asking for two hundred years, “Given that we are right and the Infidels are wrong, why are they winning in almost every area of life?”

My favorite story in the book is report of an Islamic traveler to Vienna about 1660. The Turkish Muslim traveler is clearly in shock over what he has just seen. He describes how even the king will stop for a woman on the street and wait, for her to go by and take off his hat. If that isn’t bad enough, in his opinion, the women run everything! Now we don’t think of 17th century Vienna as breeding ground for the women’s movement, but there you have it. That would have been impossible without 1) Jesus and 2) Constantine.

Another great argument is that where there weren’t Christian princes (as bad as many of them were) Christianity simply did not survive. Nestorian Christianity, a slightly unorthodox version of Christianity, traveled east (it appears all the way to China) was eventually crushed without the protection of Christian princes. Tamerlane the Great wiped out what was left of Nestorian Christianity in the Middle Ages. The Protestant Reformation would never have made it without the protection of Lutheran Christian princes.

Now what does this have to do with our present context? The 21st century is the reverse of 4th century. Christians are losing power. We either no longer or are rapidly losing power in our culture. That means we can’t get things done.

This isn’t just academic or political. It means our kids are highly vulnerable to the siren song of the culture. One of the early shocks for me was to discover in my travels in the mid-90s that most Christian families were losing one or more of their kids to the culture. It used to be the “prodigal” who lost his way to licentiousness. Now our “prodigals” have reasonably well-ordered lives but see no need for Christianity.

In fact the de-Christianizing trend began in earnest about two hundred and fifty years ago in intellectual circles, took root deep about a hundred years ago in the university and spread into the media and our schools. Satan was both brilliant and patient. He went after the cultural transformation points. I’d much rather have the Universities, Hollywood and the Media that the presidency, the congress, and the courts.

How is this helpful to see that our century is the reverse of 4th?

It is exhilerating to be gaining power, to be in control of culture. Imagine what it felt like for the 4th century Christians to slowly take over Hollywood, the Universities, and the Media. Imagine hearing Dan Rather pray in Jesus’ name, Oprah becoming a Christian, and the Supreme Court outlawing abortion. After almost 300 years of suffering, it was resurrection time for the church.

Now the opposite is happening and for many it is depressing. We are losing power, it ebbs and flows but the decline is very clear. It is just downright discouraging. We long for it to be “the way it was”…the “good old days” when Christians were in charge. At church we are listening to Focus on the Family’s “Truth Project” in Sunday School. I love how well it is put together and how thoughtful the teacher is about culture, but it has a bit of a angry feel, of standing up for our rights, that doesn’t reflect the spirit of Jesus in his Passion. We will not reach this dying world unless we ourselves are dying Christians. Our death is not vicarious, it is not atoning–only Jesus’ death is vicarious–but it is the pattern of his life and his life is our life.

At the gym I have 12 TVs in front of me. I can go liberal with CNN or conservative with Fox. It is the ultimate post-modern experience! Anne Coulter was on Fox and had just gone off on something and Neil Cavuto asked her, “Anne, are you angry?” She didn’t say anything, but she was.

Here are some more organized thoughts:

1.      Sadness. Instead of anger we can feel sadness. Instead of a fist, a tear. Anger can have the spirit of trying to get American “back the way it was”. Anger at having something stolen from us. Sadness is grieving over the loss. It is such a pure response to pain and disappointment. During a particular painful time in my life God brought to mind Isaiah 53, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him.” God was pleased to permit me to go through suffering. It helped me not to kick against what God was doing and demand my rights. [I’d suggest reading the chapter in Love Walked Among Us on how Jesus faces sadness. I think it is about chapter 21.]

2.      Prayer. Let your sadness turn into groaning and prayer. During one particular difficult moment of humiliation in my life, John 12 came to mind, “Unless the seed dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit…Where I am, so will my servants be….my Father will honor the one who serves me.” I thought, by not lashing out, by serving in humility when I have no future, by letting someone else take credit for my work, I am serving my Father. The next moment I was overwhelmed with the thought that by doing that I was serving my Father and nothing would stop him from honoring me.

3.      Sovereignty. Knowing that God is in control allows us to pull back and say, “Wow, this pattern of declining Christendom has been going on for a long time. Sometimes it accelerates and sometimes it pauses or goes slightly in reverse, but it is a dominate pattern that God is permitting. What is God doing? What opportunities does he have for his church in a dying world? As the world increasingly resembles the paganism of the first three centuries of the church, we need to respond to that world in the same way the early pre-Constantine church did. We need to learn how to die again. We need to relearn how to be bold, to engage a dying world with a dying and risen Savior.

4.      Love. Love our enemies. How can we as Christians love when we have less power, are more easily misunderstood, and stereo-typed? My board chairman Timo was turned down by a donor for a gift to our work. The donor said that he’d already allocated all his giving for the year. He had none left. Timo didn’t miss a beat, “That’s great. I don’t want your easy money, I want the stuff that really counts. I want your heart.” Now as Christians we have to move from easy love to the stuff that really counts. We have to learn to love in an uneven world, where we are stereo-typed, where love isn’t fair. And it never was fair anyway. Love is simply the extension of grace. Grace never pretends to be fair.

I have two other thoughts both with Biblical roots as to our current location in history.

The first is the Passion. I will expand on this at some other point, but I believe that the Book of Revelation is the Passion of the Church. Just as Jesus completes Israel’s life so the church will complete Jesus’ life. At the very least, you have to admit that the immediate context of Revelation is suffering. It is through suffering, I believe, that the church will be purified, united, made ready for her Lord. We are in the early edges, historically, of that Passion.

The second is the Millenium. I think a pretty good case can be made that Christendom (literally, Christ’s Kingdom) was the millennial rule of Christ. More of that at another time.

By the way, forty years after the Goddes Nike came down from the Roman Senate, Rome fell, and the only thing left standing in the West was the church. The Galileean had conquered. Jesus alone was victor.

Now off to the chiropractor.

Christmas Morning

Christmas Morning

January 14th, 2009

 

Christmas morning, three weeks ago, I awoke to the sounds of a Bach cantata coming from the kitchen below our bedroom. I thought, “How nice, Jill has put on some music downstairs.” But after the same few chords kept playing. It was my cell phone ringing. I knew it had to Kim’s aide calling in sick. I glanced at my watch on the way out of bed. It was 5:15. Yes, Kim’s aide had sprained his ankle. I braced myself for spending the morning with our daughter Kim walking dogs, and at the same time prayed with Jill that Emily who was home from college would be willing to walk them. At 6:00 I crept into Emily’s room and tapped her, “Emily, would you be willing to walk dogs this morning?” She said through the fog of sleep, “I just prayed yesterday that I’d be able to walk with Kim.”

Emily and Kim headed out the door at 6:30. At 9:00 we got a call from the home where Jill’s mom lives, “We think she needs to be taken to the hospital, her bronchitus is worse.” That lead to a ten-minute discussion between Jill and I whether the trip was necessary. Me thinking it wasn’t and Jill thinking it was. I lost the “discussion” and spent the morning at the hospital with her mom. As soon as they checked her out I called Jill and told her she was right. Her oxygen levels were down to 91%.

I was struck by how a praying life was shaping that morning. I’d prayed for Emily to have that kind of heart for years. It was pure miracle the she responded so sweetly and so quickly. That is not the Emily I know and yet it is. She has been so changed by the activity of God on her heart and life.

The same was true with Jill’s mom. I’d started praying for our relationship about seven years ago and God had used me serving her repeatedly during times of illness to bless our relationship. It was a real story that God was weaving. So instead of disjointed incidents, messing up Christmas morning, my Father is at work. I love to watch that. It was a Colossians 1:24 morning. We make up what is lacking in Christ’s afflications for the sake of his body, the church. What on earth could ever be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Simply this: our death. Jesus’ death is finished for Jill’s mom…now for her to experience his love I need to have a dying life.

I counldn’t image a better morning for going low.

 

An Atheist Looks at Africa

An Atheist Looks at Africa

December 28th, 2008

 

This is a fascinating article from the London Times on the effects of Christianity on Africa. The author, an atheist, aknowledges not just that Christianity has helped Africa but that the inner change that comes from encountering God (who he does not believe exists!) produces the change.

I saw this first hand when I was Associate Director of World Harvest Mission (http://www.serge.org).  We were keenly aware that change came from the inside out. One of our missionaries in western Uganda, Rick Gray, told me that after he had been discipling one of the Babwisi tribal leaders Rick asked him what he was going to do with what he’d been learning about the gospel. The tribal leader said, “I think I’m going to eat with my wife.” That is how the gospel works.

Here’s the link to the article. I’ve copied the whole article below the link as well.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem – the crushing passivity of the people’s mindset

 

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it’s Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

 

But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There’s long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don’t follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety – fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things – strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won’t take the initiative, won’t take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds – at the very moment of passing into the new – that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it’s there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It’s… well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary’s further explanation – that nobody else had climbed it – would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Ahmadinejad’s Christmas Greeting

Ahmadinejad’s Christmas Greeting

December 26th, 2008

 

Below is the president of Iran’s first ever Christmas greeting. It was requested by an edgy British TV station. It is a fascinating look at Islam’s view of Jesus. From a Christian perspective, there is actually little that is theologically incorrect in the speech, although a Muslim would read it very differently from a Christian. The only two points of disagreement I’ve put in italics. The first is typical Islamic legalism and the second is the veiled reference to Mohammed’s coming back with Jesus. Notice that Muslims believe that Jesus will return some day. Of course, they believe that he will declare to all the world that Mohammed is a true prophet.

I say this because it is remarkable how much we can agree with in his speech. In protecting truth there are two perspectives that we always need to keep in balance as believers: irenics and polemics. Irenics (from the Greek word peace) emphasises our similarities. Polemics the differences. If you think of truth as a circle. Polemics would be the edge, and Irenics the center. You don’t loose your faith by being irenic. Paul is very irenic in his speech in Athens in Acts 17. It is actually a brilliant piece of irenics. Stephen on the other hand in Acts 7 is much more polemic. You need both.

Notice also the prominence that Mary has in his view of Jesus. Mary is the only woman mentioned in the Koran. I would love to use quotes of this in a poster to invite Muslims to a Person of Jesus study. I hope we can get an invitation designed just for Muslims. I think I’ll send Ahmadinejad a copy of “Love Walked Among Us”.

Here’s his speech:

In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Upon the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, Son of Mary, the Word of God, the Messenger of mercy, I would like to congratulate the followers of Abrahamic faiths, especially the followers of Jesus Christ, and the people of Britain.

The Almighty created the universe for human beings and human beings for Himself.

He created every human being with the ability to reach the heights of perfection. He called on man to make every effort to live a good life in this world and to work to achieve his everlasting life.

On this difficult and challenging journey of man from dust to the divine, He did not leave humanity to its own devices. He chose from those He created the most excellent as His Prophets to guide humanity.

All Prophets called for the worship of God, for love and brotherhood, for the establishment of justice and for love in human society. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice.

All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because humanity followed an evil path and disregarded the message of the Prophets.

Now as human society faces a myriad of problems and a succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity’s rejection of that message, in particular the indifference of some governments and powers towards the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.

The crises in society, the family, morality, politics, security and the economy which have made life hard for humanity and continue to put great pressure on all nations have come about because the Prophets have been forgotten, the Almighty has been forgotten and some leaders are estranged from God.

If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly He would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers.

If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over.

If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly He would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime. The solution to today’s problems is a return to the call of the divine Prophets. The solution to these crises is to follow the Prophets – they were sent by the Almighty for the good of humanity.

Today, the general will of nations is calling for fundamental change. This is now taking place. Demands for change, demands for transformation, demands for a return to human values are fast becoming the foremost demands of the nations of the world. The response to these demands must be real and true. The prerequisite to this change is a change in goals, intentions and directions. If tyrannical goals are repackaged in an attractive and deceptive package and imposed on nations again, the people, awakened, will stand up against them.

Fortunately, today, as crises and despair multiply, a wave of hope is gathering momentum. Hope for a brighter future and hope for the establishment of justice, hope for real peace, hope for finding virtuous and pious rulers who love the people and want to serve them – and this is what the Almighty has promised.

We believe, Jesus Christ will return, together with one of the children of the revered Messenger of Islam and will lead the world to love, brotherhood and justice. The responsibility of all followers of Christ and Abrahamic faiths is to prepare the way for the fulfilment of this divine promise and the arrival of that joyful, shining and wonderful age. I hope that the collective will of nations will unite in the not too distant future and with the grace of the Almighty Lord, that shining age will come to rule the earth.

Once again, I congratulate one and all on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. I pray for the New Year to be a year of happiness, prosperity, peace and brotherhood for humanity. I wish you every success and happiness.

King Herod

King Herod

December 19th, 2008

 

This is what you do when you are recovering from a colonoscopy! I wrote a letter to National Geographic on their December article on King Herod. My letter is below.

It is a fascinating article. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/12/herod/mueller-text

One of the most fascinating details regarding the discovery of King Herod’s tomb is that 70 years after Herod’s death, in 66 AD at the beginning of the Jewish revolt, his tomb had been ramsacked. His ossuary wasn’t just broken into, but it was smashed. You could still see the marks left by the hammers.

December 19, 2009

Dear National Geographic,

I thoroughly enjoyed Mueller’s description of Herod and his building projects. The only puzzle was his dismissal of Matthew’s account of the slaughter of infants. True, we have no other report of the incident, but then we don’t even come close to having a thorough biography of Herod. Our knowledge of the 1st century has huge gaps in it. Until Netzer’s work we didn’t even know where Herod was buried. Also, it was not likely a huge “killing” by Herod’s standards—at the most twenty infants. Matthew’s account does fit two characteristics of Herod that Mueller brings out: his brutality and his paranoid protection of his throne. A Jewish pretender was not to be tolerated. Maybe it would have been more accurate for Mueller to have simply said, “While we have no independent verification of Matthew’s account, it does fit the man.”

Sincerely,

Paul E. Miller

 

Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Best Christmas Pageant Ever

December 15th, 2008

 

A Sheep and An Angel

A Sheep and An Angel

Jill, Kim, Emily and I went to New Life Five Points this morning to see Ellie (the sheep in the middle with leotards) and her sister Claire (the angel behind her and slight to the right) in their church’s Christmas pageant.
Kim laughed all the way through it because one of her favorite movies is “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”. She was grinning ear to ear. Then we had Kim’s bday party with friends at a local pizza place. She is 27–the same age Jill was at when Kim was born.

Faith and Obedience

Faith and Obedience

December 13th, 2008

 

I was talking with my mom, Rose Marie Miller, this morning on the way in to work (I have a part time tax business so I work on Saturdays and evenings to get that going now) and she was asking me (mom has a wonderful teachable spirit!) about obedience…that hard, grinding obedience when you don’t feel like doing anything. I gave her a quick summary and she asked me to write it out for her so here it is:

The really, difficult obedience where you endure by a pure act of the will is faith. In fact it is pure, unadulterated faith. Particularly in America we tend to equate faith with feeeling good about God. We mingle faith and optimism. Put when you chose to obey God when nothing in you feels like it, when everything seems pointless, you are down to raw faith. Faith is showing up for life, putting on the pajamas, when there doesn’t seem to be any point. It is standing in front of the cross with Mary, in front of your dying Son, simply enduring where there all seems to be lost.

Anyone can believe when they feel good about God, but when you don’t see Him, when all His plans seem to have gone awry, when life no longer has any point, but you still endure, you still act on his promises, you continue to be faithful—that is faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11); especially when life seems to have no substance, and all the evidence seems to point to discouragement.

Asking God — John Piper

Asking God — John Piper

December 5th, 2008

 

A friend sent me this link from Piper’s blog on asking and prayer. I love John’s honesty about his skeptism about answered prayer — it is very refreshing:

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTopic/35/3406_What_can_I_do_to_regain_confidence_in_prayer/

I also heartily agree with Piper that saturating yourself in the Word will restore your confidence in answered prayer. Yet, I wish I could get Piper to read a draft of “A Praying Life” or attend one of our prayer seminars that Bob and I do. I hope to finish my work on the book either today or Monday. One of the big themes of the book is that there is a Gnostic imprint in the church that keeps us from asking. Augustine for example, says, “Ask nothing of God, but God himself.” At our seminars I write that up on the white board and say, “Imagine that your husband really, really loves you. He is God’s best gift to you as a wife.” Now one day he comes in and says, “You don’t need to ask me for anything because I’m your best gift.” Everyone cracks up laughing. It’s absurd. Relationships don’t work that way. We don’t separate being from doing.

Just this morning in prayer I felt my heart a little dull…as Piper describes his heart…so I rebooted my heart by taking some time to reflect on how God provided this new-to-us house and all the ways over the past three years God kept Jill and I from making bad decisions. And we made some really bad ones in hunting for a house and each time God blocked us. Thanksgiving restores my memory of God’s repeated and thoughtful involvement in my life.

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